October 15, 2012
How A War On Syria Could Escalate
Pat Lang, the former head honcho of U.S. Defense Intelligence in the Middle East, commented
at his blog
that an attack of Turkey on Syria could lead to a "Guns of August"
like process. The book "The Guns of August" describes the political and military maneuvering that eventual led to the, then rather unintended, start of the first world war.
Is Lang's comparison exaggerated? I don't think so. There is a lot of brush in the area and a small flame could easily become a big fire. One area where an open war over Syria could escalate is to the east of Turkey. That and a Turkish Armenian skirmish today is reason enough to take a deeper look into the various issues there.
About 150,000 Armenians are living
in Syria. These Armenians are partly descendents of those who were ethnically cleansed
by the Ottomans from Armenian parts of east Turkey. They are followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which itself is part of the Orthodox Church. Armenians anywhere do not think favorably about the Salafi fighters Turkey is supporting against the secular Syrian government.
Since the demise of the Soviet Union the powerful Russian Orthodox Church regained its enormous influence within Russian politics. This is one reason why Russia supports Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan over the quasi independent Nagorno-Karabakh (NKR), an Armenian region within Azerbaijan that gained quasi independence and some land in a war during the early 1990s.
The conflict over the region has not ended. The Armenians are opening new airports in Nagorno-Karabakh, further integrating it into their country. The Azerbaijanis do not like this:
Step towards the commissioning of Khojaly airport in Nagorno-Karabakh is dangerous, violates international law and harms the peaceful settlement of the conflict, Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev said at the press conference.
Earlier, Armenian media reported about the commissioning of the airport in Khankendi.
Azerbaijan has banned the use of the airspace of Nagorno-Karabakh occupied by Armenia, as no one can guarantee flight safety in the area, the head of the Azerbaijani Civil Aviation Administration, Arif Mammadov said.
He said Armenia's steps directed to the operation of the airport in Khankendi are attempts to violate international legal norms. This air space belongs to Azerbaijan, so its use by Armenia is impossible.
Not really impossible. In recent years Russia sold
some highly sophisticated air defense weapons to Armenia (Khojaly is right next to Stepanakert, the capitiol of the region):
Deployment of the mobile S-300PS batteries in Syunik province places the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region under the protection of Armenia’s air defense network. Furthermore, the S-300PS enjoys mobility that the S-300PT does not, enabling rapid relocation when required. As such, either S-300PS complex represents a possible occupant for the S-300P complex constructed near Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh, supplementing or replacing extant 2K11 or S-125 batteries in the region. The siting of the S-300PS batteries permits target track assignment from either the Yerevan-based 64N6 battle management radar or a Nagorno-Karabakh-based 36D6 EW radar. Furthermore, the current siting of the S-300PS batteries closes a pre-existing air defense gap, allowing Armenia to deny air travel into the Azeri province of Nakhchivan.
Following his strategy to piss off every neighbor the Turkish foreign minister Davutoğlu today threw himself into the issue. First an Armenian civil airplane that carried humanitarian relief to Aleppo was told to land in Turkey for an inspection of its load. After a few hours it was allowed to continue its flight. Then Davatoglu let off a totally hypocritical missive about the Khojaly airport:
Armenia’s step was not friendly, Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey had been in solidarity with Azerbaijan on the question of the airport as well as other issues.
Turkey was ready to do everything to establish peace and stability in the south Caucasus, the foreign minister said.
“Everyone should respect all countries’ borders to maintain peace,” Davutoğlu was quoted as saying.
Turkey wants the problem of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity to be solved, Davutoğlu said.
Russia has some 5,000 soldiers permanently stationed in Armenia. This summer it announced to double that presence
. Russia has no over land access to Armenia. It is believed that it has plans to create, if needed, an access route through Georgia to Armenia to supply its troops there. Its recent Caucasus 2012 maneuver
seemed to be designed to train for such an event:
As part of the exercise, the Black Sea Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla were given objectives to ensure a favorable operating environment for naval operations, security, and joint actions with land units during a special anti-terrorist operation.
The maneuvers involved the missile cruiser Moskva, several large assault ships, two small anti-submarine ships, four sea-going trawlers, two small missile ships, missile and assault launches, and also contingents of marines. Both marine forces achieved their objectives.
Airborne Forces also took an active part in the “Caucasus 2012” exercise. Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the airborne forces, said: “Units of the 7th (Alpine) Air Assault Division were landed on the Kapustin Yar training area during the exercise. The 247th Air Assault Regiment, which is part of this unit, took part in a bilateral tactical exercise with the 5th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade in the Ashuluk training area. At the same time, units of the division fulfilled a number of objectives in the Rayevskoye training area in cooperation with the Black Sea Fleet.”
lost 2008 war
over border provinces amply proved that the Georgian military would be unable to hold off such a force.
Like Georgia the oil rich Azerbaijan, under the dictatorship of president Aliyev, has friendly relation with "western" countries. There is speculation that Azerbaijani airfields could be used during an Israeli attack on Iran:
[D]espite official denials by Azerbaijan and Israel, two Azeri former military officers with links to serving personnel and two Russian intelligence sources all told Reuters that Azerbaijan and Israel have been looking at how Azeri bases and intelligence could serve in a possible strike on Iran.
"Where planes would fly from - from here, from there, to where? - that's what's being planned now," a security consultant with contacts at Azeri defense headquarters in Baku said. "The Israelis ... would like to gain access to bases in Azerbaijan."
That Aliyev, an autocratic ally of Western governments and oil firms, has become a rare Muslim friend of the Jewish state - and an object of scorn in Tehran - is no secret; a $1.6-billion arms deal involving dozens of Israeli drones, and Israel's thirst for Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea crude, are well documented.
Joby Warwick, who has written several
, anti-Iran propaganda pieces
in the Washington Post adds another one today favorable comparing
the mafia dictatorship of Azerbaijan with Iran because, ya know, some Azerbaijanis like Jennifer Lopez.
Also today the NATO propaganda shop Atlantic Council called for the deployment of NATO assets to Turkey:
It is time for NATO to send proportional support to Turkey during its hour of need. Reinforcing this embattled ally with a small number of AWACS radar aircraft and/or units from the NATO rapid reaction force will strengthen Ankara militarily and politically.
It will also send a powerful message to the Assad regime in Syria and its allies to prevent any further attacks against Turkey. By acting now, NATO can help de-escalate the confrontation along the Turkish-Syrian border and decrease the possibility of Turkey intervening unilaterally in Syria.
Propaganda and the buildup and positioning of military forces for "de-escalation" was one of the policies described in the book "The Guns of August" that eventually led to World War I.
Not only Syria but also the Kurdish areas of Turkey and north Iraq and further east the Caucasus area are tinderboxes that could easily go up in flames. Any military move against Syria, which has a military alliance with Iran, could easily extend into the wider area.
The situation is of increasing complexity. An all out accidental war involving the whole area, including war between NATO and Russia's CSTO, is no longer unthinkable.
Posted by b on October 15, 2012 at 02:28 PM | Permalink
Regarding Armenians, when I was in Aleppo a couple years ago, almost the only Americans I met were Armenian-Americans.
Like Jews they enjoy outsized political influence in the US. For evidence, you need only consider Congress' annual Armenian genocide resolutions targeting US ally Turkey.
I wonder how they are responding to the threat of annihilation in Syria due to the US backing of Salafi jihadis.
Posted by: JohnH | Oct 15, 2012 3:20:19 PM | 1
Somebody's badly looking for war..and they may very well get it...
Posted by: Zico | Oct 15, 2012 5:02:12 PM | 3
Precisely why this posturing lying piece of shit Romney scares the hell out of me. His comments about Isr/Pal prove that he's an ignorant jackass with dangerous ideological leanings.
If any one of these Washington scumbags can cause a fresh world war, Romney would be at the top of my list of those most likely to succeed. Good lord, how did we get to the point where such pathetic humans are paraded in front of us as viable leadership material???
This clown Romney is as fake as a chrome plated plastic penis.
Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Oct 15, 2012 10:20:36 PM | 4
Q: The Azerbaijanis do not like this...
R: When I visited a communist country for the first time [as an impressionable kid] I couldn't help but see people, ordinary people. Lots of them. Not the vilified commies I was told to expect [together with the idiotic 'duck & dive' to survive A-bombs]. I think this oversimplifying [at least the use of such terminology] doesn't in any way enhance talking points or stimulate debate. I am sure that elements within the Azerbaijan's power structures grind their teeth and load their guns, but not your average AJJ [Azerbaijani Joe&Jane].
Posted by: Daniel Rich | Oct 15, 2012 10:26:50 PM | 5
The Warwick article make Azerbaijan sound like....Syria.
Posted by: Inanna | Oct 15, 2012 10:57:49 PM | 6
If Israel attacks Iran and uses Azerbijan airfields it seems only sensible that Iran will attack Azerbijan. In fact, it seems only sensible that Russian will come in from the north to neutralize Azerbijan as a base against their interests. If Georgia objects then it seems only reasonable that Russian would take them out as well.
Now that could be an August 1914 scenario.
Posted by: ToivoS | Oct 15, 2012 11:20:11 PM | 7
I wrote on Walt's FP blog, that Syria is the oculus (essentially the capstone of a dome) of the Middle East. If it crumbles, the whole place will fracture. I hope some wiser heads will realize this and pull back from the brink. Though, a fractured Middle East is precisely what some want.
Perhaps it's thought that Syria's collapse would expedite the migration/evacuation of Christians from Syria and Palestine. Might that give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the (then exclusively) Muslim Arabs? We know Israel has long sought to destroy any potential rivals in the Middle East
Posted by: scottindallas | Oct 16, 2012 8:34:50 AM | 8
Today Ahmadinejad and Erdogan met for 40 minutes in Azerbaijan to discuss Syria.
Posted by: LOYAL | Oct 16, 2012 10:54:52 AM | 9
@scottindallas - Israel would be more comfortable in dealing with a sectarian and radicalized Middle East, just like itself, rather than with pluralistic and tolerant political communities, which would naturally press for a one-state solution in Palestine; and of course, "religious identities" are better manipulated by colonialism, and harder to build strong national states on
Posted by: claudio | Oct 16, 2012 11:53:43 AM | 10
Just read the Joby Warwick piece - Wow!
In an era of vapid, distorted garbage by the MSM this one is genuinely special - I mean prize-worthy special.
I think I must of missed reading Warwick before, because if the rest is like this... genuinely unforgettable!
This is so bad, so completely & utterly removed from reality, that I suspect he just made the whole thing up after hearing Jennifer Lopez did a concert in Azerbaijan. It's almost impossible to criticize, it's just 'soo Bad!'
Posted by: KenM | Oct 16, 2012 5:04:47 PM | 11
I was starting to reread Albert Camus' novel, The Plague, a couple of weeks ago; and have been dwelling on these remarkable excerpts:
"[...] Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.
[...] When a war breaks out people say: "It's too stupid; it can't last long." But though a war may well be "too stupid," that doesn't prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.
In this respect our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences. A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogey of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they haven't taken their precautions. Our townsfolk were not more to blame than others; they forgot to be modest, that was all, and thought that everything was still possible for them; which presupposed that pestilences were impossible. They went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views. They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.
, pp. 35-6)
The quelling or abuse of real civic life and constitutional safeguards, and the sanctioned looting by transnational finance, is a degenerative history in the making. What has also come, are virtual pilot programs in my country to dissolve municipalities, an evil process where the police stand down or fade away; where anarchy is being planned, so as to usher in a military clampdown later.
The Guns of August scenario, if it comes, will be an ultimate coup, to beat democratic life in the west into submission. Being captive in a city closed by plague, and being occupied by a fascist corporate regime, or under predictable bombardment by one, amounts to much the same grim fate. No humanists want this, nor will most other people understand, if the gates of the city are closed this way.
Posted by: Copeland | Oct 16, 2012 5:52:49 PM | 13
b's analyses' are what make moon a great site to visit. This situation between Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbijan sounds so 19th century. Subtract Britain and add the US and the Great Game is back in play. This is one optimistic note: no world war originated there in the last two centuries so maybe it won't happen in this one.
Provided, of course, that the US is willing to sit back and not define the fate Nagorno Karabakh as essential to America's Freedom and Way of Life.
Posted by: ToivoS | Oct 16, 2012 8:05:47 PM | 14
Armenia simulates strike at Azeri oil, gas
Armenia recently held an exercise in which it modeled several strikes on Azerbaijan’s oil and gas facilities, a top Armenian general has told local media.
The two-week “strategic” exercises took place in undisclosed locations in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh between Oct. 1 and 13, utilizing a mostly “command-and-staff” format, according to Armenian Azatutyun radio.
“In particular, I can stress that we modeled several strikes on oil and gas infrastructures, energy carriers that would affect the economy,” Major-Gen. Artak Davtian, head of the operational department at the Armenian army’s General Staff, said. “We simulated strikes against both army units and military facilities of the probable enemy and … economic facilities that influence, in one way or another, the military capacity of its armed forces.”
According to the Armenian military, 40,000 troops and thousands of pieces of military hardware were involved in the exercise. The participating personnel included a record-high number of army reservists.
300-km range missiles
Davtian avoided naming the weapons used in the exercise, but said that the country’s missiles had a firing range of more than 300 kilometers, putting virtually all strategic facilities in Azerbaijan within their reach. The Armenian Defense Ministry has said that the latest “unprecedented” war exercises were planned in advance.
Posted by: b | Oct 19, 2012 3:12:42 AM | 15